Sentinel Flame Book One
By Adam Freestone
Alaskan Writer of Imaginative Creativity
Keller slammed his fist down on the map laid across the table in front of him, unable to contain his anger any longer. For the better part of a month, he had been searching for the Hyroc creature. That search had led him across the kingdom to this guard post near the western edge of the wilderness, and he was still no closer to locating his quarry. His assumption that the creature would stick to the more easily traversable terrain of the roads had proven false. But even with his incorrect judgment, his target was on foot, and with mounted men, it was still only a matter of time until he found the creature. After a week with no sightings, he was forced to broaden his search. At which point, the only logical destination for the creature was the western wilderness as it was the closest and least populated region near Forna. And after figuring out what seemed the most expedient path for the creature to do so, he and his men began searching every town it might have passed by. But they found no evidence it had gone that way, not so much as a whisper or even a rumor.
So where was it? How could it possibly be so masterful with evasion? He had known elite scouts that left more evidence of their presence. It seemed ridiculous that it could possibly be so good. Nothing about its time at the school should have prepared it in the least bit for such behavior. Maybe something about its creation had imparted it with these powers.
“How can there be no sign?” Keller said with a raised voice. “Are your men so incompetent?”
The captain before him showed a flicker of anger in his eyes but hid all other signs of emotions. “Sir,” the captain said calmly. “I trained most of these men myself, and I assure you they are quite competent. Most have tracked fugitives before; they understand how to hunt.”
“Then why does all evidence indicate otherwise?”
“I don’t know, sir.”
Keller shook his head in irritation. No one seemed to know the answer to that question.
The captain was quiet for a long moment. “But if I may, sir. We could be looking in the wrong place.”
“Then where would you suggest we look?” Keller growled. He seriously doubted the man was more knowledgeable than he in such matters, and any answer he gave would be wrong.
The man stepped over to the map. He quickly studied it before speaking. “We have not searched the northern towns.”
Keller shook his head. “I already thought of that, those towns are too far out of the way, and unless I thoroughly overestimated the creature’s intelligence, it would have avoided those towns for a direct path to the wilderness.”
“I understand that, sir. But we have no other leads.”
“There is still plenty of ground to cover here,” Keller snapped. “I know there is some sign of the creature that we’re missing.”
“Then may I at least send couriers to those locations, they will not diminish our search parties, and they are fast enough to return with any information they find before the month is out.”
Keller shook his head irritably. “Very well, you may send out riders. I suppose it prudent to do so.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“You are dismissed.”
The captain saluted respectfully before exiting through the open flap of the command tent.
Keller shook his head irritably as he watched the man leave. The creature had to have come through this area. It was the only logical thing he could think of. Escape would be the only thing on its mind. Surely it wouldn’t be thinking about finding a place to live. Keller cocked an eyebrow at the thought. Or was it? Was he thinking about this whole situation wrong? Was that why he couldn’t find it? He was fixated on the wrong reasoning.
He turned his attention back toward the map, moving his gaze toward the northern towns. His eyes settled on Flatwood. It still seemed doubtful the creature would have gone anywhere near that town. It was still relatively close to Forna. The creature would have had to go out of its way to get there if it wished to escape into the wilderness. As he studied the town’s location, he noticed a small village further north, in the midst of the Elswood forest. The name was written so small it was hard for him to even see. He shook his head dismissively. If the creature went there, the villagers – people who dealt with dangerous forest animals on an almost daily basis – would kill it on sight. It wouldn’t have gone there, and if it did, it was dead and he would have heard about it by now. No, it couldn’t be there. The couriers would confirm this. The creature had to be close by. He was just missing something.